There are few areas in our city with as long and complex a history as the River Crossing, but this history isn’t well known to many Edmontonians. The River Crossing area in Rossdale is at the heart of our city and has borne witness to Edmonton’s evolution over the course of thousands of years.
Originally a site of traditional practices for indigenous people, the area was also of great importance to the fur traders and other settlers who arrived following the establishment of Fort Edmonton in present-day Edmonton in the early 19th century. Rossdale was also the site of the inauguration of the Province of Alberta by Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier in 1905.
Over the past year, the City of Edmonton has been working on a Heritage Interpretive Plan for the River Crossing area, to honour its rich cultural heritage in authentic ways in both the near future and long term as the area is redeveloped into a vibrant community.
Understanding the heritage of the area is central to the Heritage Interpretive Plan; however, much of the history is not visible. Some physical reminders of the River Crossing’s history are recognizable today, like the Traditional Burial Grounds and Fort Edmonton Cemetery, Rossdale Generating Station and Ortona Armoury. We also know some of the area’s history from written documents, sketches and photographs. Unfortunately, these reminders only reflect a limited set of perspectives and a short period of the area’s history. To better understand the heritage of this neighbourhood, the City of Edmonton sought out missing perspectives and stories to paint a fuller picture of the area’s history.
We collaborated with Edmontonians, heritage organizations, subject matter experts and reached out to 29 First Nation and Métis communities and organizations to start a formal dialogue about why this place is important and how we might share its stories. To speak to people about the project, we organized workshops, open houses, site visits and surveys. We also set up historical tours, a pop-up museum and a panel discussion with the Edmonton Heritage Council and City-Region Studies Centre.
The stories and ideas we heard through this consultative process were used to create a framework of themes that will structure our planning as we move forward. In the Heritage Interpretive Plan, we explore ways that we might interpret the stories we heard through materials, events, activities, architecture, urban design, media and public art.
In July, Edmonton City Council approved the River Crossing Heritage Interpretive Plan. This means we can now begin to implement the plan with partners and the community. Council’s approval also firmly establishes the plan as a foundation for redevelopment in the area, ensuring the heritage of Rossdale is honoured, shared and made visible as the area changes over time.
The River Crossing Heritage Interpretive Plan can be found at Edmonton.ca/HeritageInterpretivePlan.